Thursday, September 19, 2019

Conflict Management in Nehemiah's Life

"I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it” (Nehemiah 2:20).

Nehemiah was a man who knew how to handle conflict. What we know of his life and ministry as contained in the book bearing his name indicates that he was continually involved in one conflict management situation after another.

Nehemiah’s first conflict was apparently with God Himself. Israel had been defeated earlier in war, devastated as a nation, and scattered among the peoples. Jerusalem lay in ruins. Nehemiah, serving as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, was burdened with what God was and was not accomplishing. Nehemiah rehearsed an entire history of Israel’s sin, and through prayer, fasting, and confession, he found relief from his burden. God then restored to him a vision of what yet might be accomplished in Israel.

Nehemiah’s “let us arise and build” (2:18) mentality resulted in substantial external conflict when he returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city wall. Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem, local provincial rulers who were threatened by a newly defensible city wall, harassed Nehemiah in hopes of halting the work. Their resorting to lies, anger, and conspiracy did not dissuade Nehemiah from completing the rebuilding in a staggering time of only 52 days.

The third source of conflict came from within the Israelite community. People began to abuse one another by charging exorbitant rates for food and goods, causing some to sell themselves into slavery to fellow Jews in order to continue working on the rebuilding of the wall (5:1–13). Dissension from within was dealt with by corporate prayer, confession, and restitution, with the primary example of virtue being displayed by Nehemiah himself.

The fourth level of conflict involved personal attacks upon Nehemiah’s character and work. The dogged nature of others’ sin continued to hinder Nehemiah’s work, but his steadfast integrity blunted each attempt to discredit him. “Should a man such as I flee?” (6:11 NKJV). His clear conscience and good standing before God enabled him to stand against the intimidation of his detractors. As was true in each level of conflict management, the resolution had much to do with the personal integrity of the leader.

Being a Christian only heightens the level of conflict we must resolve because we are constantly waging war against sin and competing world views. Be encouraged through Nehemiah, whose name means “Yahweh has comforted,” that He will also comfort you in your times of conflict management.